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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

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February 2, 2004

February 2, 2004



** Lord Hutton's report "exonerates" Blair, restores his "integrity" but "not his authority."

** The "demoralized" BBC faces "the greatest crisis" in its 82-year history.

** As the "central" issue of WMD won't go away, Blair "is not out of the woods."


A 'triumph' for the 'unsinkable' Tony Blair-- Lord Hutton's report clearing the Blair government of "sexing up" intelligence on Iraq was a "vindication" and "triumph" for the prime minister. "Rarely can a prime minister have had more cause for quiet satisfaction," said the independent Financial Times, noting that Hutton had "acquitted" Blair of "all the central allegations laid against him." Coupled with a narrow parliamentary win on student fees the day before, Blair had had "an astonishing 48 hours." He "emerged victorious" from his trials, an Italian writer remarked, proving again that Blair has "few rivals" as a leader or statesman. Britain's centrist and leftist broadsheets, however, complained of Hutton's "limited remit," and the left-of-center Guardian dismissed the report as a "cover-up." Edinburgh's conservative Scotsman noted that "a majority" of Britons are uneasy about "the BBC taking all the blame" for David Kelly's suicide and urged Blair to "rein in his spin machine."

'Labor 1, BBC 0'-- Hutton's scathing words about the BBC were "the first stain" on the broadcaster in its long history. The "shattered" organization, judged Italy's left-leaning La Repubblica, "has tumbled off the pedestal that it has occupied for 82 years." Lord Hutton, the UK tabloid Sun crowed, exposed "the culture of sloppiness, incompetence and arrogance" at the BBC. Foreign observers concluded the BBC was "facing the biggest crisis in its history." At the same time, critics questioned if Hutton had maintained "a proper sense of balance," contrasting his "no-holds-barred demolition" of the broadcaster with his "velvet-gloved approach" to government "spinmeisters." Spain's conservative La Razon added that it was important to "reflect on the undeniable fact" that the BBC claim that Iraq lacked WMD that could be deployed within 45 minutes was "rigorously exact."

WMD question will continue to dog 'Teflon Tony'-- Many dailies noted that despite the "relief" Blair felt at the report's exoneration of him, "the basic WMD issue will not go away" and so the report "does not resolve the central problem" for the government over Iraq. Belfast's moderately nationalist Irish News counseled Blair that he "has already comprehensively lost" the wider debate over whether going to war was justified. Hutton's exoneration and his parliamentary win showed "predictions of Mr. Blair's imminent political demise" were proved wrong, but many outlets wondered for how long. Russia's centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta acknowledged Blair's "tactical victory" but opined that, "Strategically, he is in trouble." Because bitterness over "Blair's war" is high and "many MPs long for revenge," a German paper stated, the prime minister "cannot rule...in the long run."

EDITOR: Steven Wangsness

EDITOR'S NOTE: This analysis is based on 61 reports from 25 countries, January 28-February 2, 2004. Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.


BRITAIN: "Hutton Exposes Need For A Full Inquiry"

Lord Alexander of Weedon QC argued in the independent Financial Times (2/2): "It is also important that reports on public inquiries should have a proper sense of balance and be seen to be in touch with reality. To many, these qualities seem in places surprisingly absent.... The report also fails to acknowledge the difficulty of journalism and what an important role the BBC fulfilled in probing the case made by the government for leading us into a war.... Perhaps the central problem of the report is that Lord Hutton's remit was limited. Yet he brought out facts that would otherwise have remained buried.... Lord Hutton may have shied away from criticisms of the government. What he has done is a great service by bringing out some of the facts that need to be pursued in a more wide-ranging investigation."

"'A Victory' That May Yet Return To Haunt Mr. Blair"

The center-left Independent editorialized (1/30): "There is something distasteful about the Government's crowing over the shocked and demoralized BBC. Distasteful and unwise.... The prime minister should realize that this pursuit of total humiliation recalls the worst of the Thatcher years.... The Hutton report and the BBC's excessive reaction to it contain the seeds of something dangerous for Mr. Blair.... In a straight battle between the Government and the BBC--which is what this crisis in relations became--ministers would be unwise to assume that the public automatically takes its part. The sight of a corporation left wounded and leaderless is not one the voters would have wished as the outcome of this inquiry, and they could choose to blame ministers for bringing it about. This week's was a 'victory' over the BBC that may yet come back to haunt the prime minister."

"The Heads Roll -- But Only At The BBC"

Edinburgh's conservative Scotsman judged (Internet version, 1/30): "Most people in Britain understand that the BBC made mistakes.... But if most folk realize the BBC was culpable, they also read the evidence to Hutton as implying that the government--especially the MoD--was also culpable. Lord Hutton even ticks off the MoD for failing to inform Dr. David Kelly timeously of the fact that it had released his name to the media. Why no equivalent resignations, high or low, at the MoD? There is a message here for Tony Blair. It is understandable that he and his Cabinet colleagues have smirks on their faces following the publication of the Hutton report. The prime minister might be tempted to read any critical comments about the Hutton verdict as sour grapes. They are not. A majority of the British people, including those who support the government, are less than easy about the BBC taking all the blame and offering up all the sacrificial scalps over the suicide of Dr. Kelly. Rather than crowing, Mr. Blair would be better to deliver on his promise to rein in his spin machine. He would do well to review the weaknesses of [Defense Secretary] Geoff Hoon at the MoD, which go far beyond the Kelly affair."


The left-of-center Guardian held (Internet version, 1/30): "For the government, the sweet taste of Hutton has soon turned to dust. Two polls, taken in the immediate aftermath of the inquiry, show the public to be considerably unimpressed with the balance of the learned judge's findings. Most people considered Lord Hutton to have been unfair on the BBC. Many more people prefer to place their trust in the BBC than the government. And more people believe Tony Blair should have resigned than the BBC director general, Greg Dyke. As it happens, it was the popular and charismatic Dyke, not Blair, who yesterday fell on his sword.... Any pleasure this might have brought in and around No. 10 Downing Street will have been dampened by the extraordinary scenes of BBC employees marching out of their offices with placards demanding the return of their boss.... In reality the champagne corks will have been popping from Downing Street to Tufnell Park. This was a fight to the death between the government and the BBC and no one currently or recently in Downing Street was going to rest until the corporation had been decapitated. This may have been a source of short-term satisfaction, but it may well rebound against New Labor.... The BBC's journalistic and management failures can only be understood in the context of the overall New Labor media control tactics...which even its own practitioners now concede were over the top and counterproductive."

"The WMD Issue Is Still With Us"

The moderate nationalist Irish News of Belfast judged (Internet version, 1/29): "It was to Tony Blair's credit yesterday that, in the middle of the furor over the Hutton Report, he acknowledged that the wider debate over his attempts to justify the war in Iraq was 'entirely legitimate.' If Mr. Blair is honest with himself, he will also recognize the overwhelming perception that, despite yesterday's developments, he has already comprehensively lost that debate. The British prime minister...emerged from the publication of the Hutton Report yesterday with his integrity intact.... Lord Hutton has emphatically ruled that Mr. Blair was not part of any 'underhand strategy' to reveal Dr. Kelly's identity. That finding will certainly come as a relief to Mr. Blair, but, quite apart from matters relating to Dr. Kelly, the basic WMD issue will not go away. A decision to wage war on Iraq was largely taken because of the belief that Saddam Hussein possessed such weapons. No evidence to support this belief has ever been found and that is a fact which may well be remembered long after the controversy over the Hutton report has faded away."

"Hutton Report Sidesteps The One Central Issue"

Former foreign secretary Robin Cook wrote in the center-left Independent (1/29): "Lord Hutton himself made it clear yesterday that he offered no judgment on whether [pre-war WMD] intelligence was reliable, as that lay beyond the terms of his remit. As a result his report does not resolve the central problem for the Government over Iraq, which is the gulf between the claims it made before the war about the threat from Iraq and its inability to find any evidence of such a threat since.... Yet it is precisely the refusal of No.10 to recognize reality that keeps the controversy alive."

"Mixed Verdict On Lord Hutton"

The independent Financial Times commented (1/29): "Lord Hutton's long-awaited report into the death of David Kelly is unlikely to end the controversy that began with the suicide of the distinguished weapons inspector. It absolves the government of lying about the threat posed by Iraq and the BBC is excoriated for its lax management control. Yet the government escapes too lightly for its role in outing Mr. Kelly, and the questions raised about the use of intelligence were beyond Lord Hutton's remit.... The governors, who both manage and regulate the BBC, also failed to investigate before rebutting the government's complaint. They felt under attack by Downing Street which had been bombarding them for months over alleged 'anti-war bias'. Lord Hutton acknowledged their responsibility to defend the BBC's independence, but this duty is not incompatible with investigating complaints.... Perhaps the lasting legacy of the Hutton Inquiry, however, will be the light shed on the political use of intelligence."

"The Hutton Verdict"

The conservative Times took this view (1/29): "Lord Hutton has recognized the complicated and unique conditions in which the contest between the BBC and the Government ultimately escalated. The 'September dossier' was an unusual document and exercise.... Lord Hutton considered these circumstances and decided that the influence exercised by Downing Street over the September dossier was not unreasonable.... Lord Hutton's searing criticism of the BBC...should prompt resignations at the corporation.... In the meantime, the governors must take a more active interest in the BBC's running and better understand that their primary duty is to the public."

"This One-Sided Judgment Will Not Win Voters Round"

Jackie Ashley contended in the left-of-center Guardian (Internet version, 1/29): "It is indeed, as Margaret Thatcher famously remarked at the time of her decapitation, a funny old world. The country is taken to war on the basis of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that almost everyone now acknowledges never existed. There, thousands are killed. Here, a scientist kills himself after raising legitimate doubts about the government's intelligence. And a six-month inquiry by an eminent judge concludes that the only people who have done anything wrong at all work for the BBC. Lord Hutton's report could not have been more favorable to No 10. Whitewash? Great barrels of the gloopy stuff are sloshing around Whitehall.... Lord Hutton's report lacks any sense of proportion.... Tony Blair's integrity...has been proved, in the sense that he clearly believed the intelligence he was putting before the British people. But the report is...limited by its terms of reference to the specific events leading up to the death of David Kelly.... On the face of it, this 'make or break' week now looks like a fantastic triumph for Tony Blair.... He has won everywhere...except perhaps among the only group not extensively interviewed, profiled or discussed lately, the electorate.... This was the week when Tony Blair might have had to go.... Had a handful of relatively obscure MPs not changed their minds on [tuition fees], he would have been politically finished.... So, after the thrills and spills of the last 72 hours.... Yet things have changed.... Across the country, millions have been watching the events of this past week. And I cannot believe that they have much liked what they saw."

"Truth And Consequences"

The left-of-center Guardian commented (Internet version, 1/29): "It should not be forgotten that, following the tuition fees vote on Tuesday, Hutton was the second great test of Tony Blair's authority. If the report had gone wrong for the government, Mr. Blair could well have been an ex-prime minister this morning. So it needs to be said, with total directness and maximum clarity, that Lord Hutton has found in Mr. Blair's favor.... Lord Hutton has done his job, based on the evidence presented to him, and done it briskly, independently and clearly. But there is, all the same, a certain naiveté of tone and approach. Lord Hutton's report does not describe the politico-journalistic world as it really exists. Ministers, MPs, officials, reporters and editors inhabit a more complex culture than the one Lord Hutton depicts. His report is not the end of the story. The government may have been cleared over Dr. Kelly's death-- but that does not mean it was honest about Iraq. It is entitled to Hutton's narrow vindication, but it still has a lot to prove."

"One-Sided Verdict Is Not The Final Word"

The conservative Scotsman of Edinburgh editorialized (Internet version, 1/29): "Lord Hutton has given Tony Blair the benefit of the doubt over the Kelly affair.... Lord Hutton's conclusions are very much at odds with how most independent observers read the evidence. During his time on the Northern Ireland bench, Lord Hutton was known as a man who stuck tenaciously to legal precedent. In this case, where the issues are very grey indeed, he has been legalistic in the extreme.... The most unexpected part of Lord Hutton's conclusions is his utter castigation of the BBC at all levels.... Certainly, there were serious faults inside the BBC. But Lord Hutton's no-holds-barred demolition of the corporation is in marked contrast to his velvet-gloved approach to Alastair Campbell and the latter's empire of spin. I t is as if Lord Hutton feels more at ease in criticizing public institutions such as the BBC...than more amorphous organisms such as the ad hoc structures of government that Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell started to invent after 1997.... His one-sided verdict may have done the prime minister fewer favors than he thinks. Mr. Blair is grinning now, but for how long? So odd were Hutton's conclusions on the conduct of the Number 10 machine that it is difficult to envisage voters seeing this as the final word on the prime minister's flawed running of his government."

"Yet Again, Reports Of The PM's Demise Prove Premature"

The conservative Daily Telegraph editorialized (Internet version, 1/29): "Already last night, questions were being asked about the issues Lord Hutton chose not to address in the report...but on one central point his conclusions are unambiguous and straightforward.... In effect, Tony Blair stood accused of sending British troops to war based on a lie.... Lord Hutton found these allegations against the Government to be 'unfounded'.... In these circumstances, it was inevitable and appropriate that Gavyn Davies pay the price for gross failures of management at the BBC and offer his resignation as chairman. Nevertheless, there are very serious issues that Lord Hutton decided not to explore and that Parliament might now consider. Even if Downing Street is cleared of deliberately tampering with intelligence for political ends, concerns remain about our intelligence services and their interaction with Downing Street.... But, overall, the Hutton report is a vindication of the prime minister and his aides. Once again, predictions of Mr. Blair's imminent political demise proved wrong."

"The Shadow Of Iraq"

Seumas Milne judged in the left-of-center Guardian (Internet version, 1/29): "Whatever the mixture of motives, Hutton's unqualified endorsement of the government's behavior is bound, in the current climate, to be widely regarded in the country as a cover-up. It will have no credibility for millions who opposed the war on Iraq; it will merely add to the sense that the political system is unable to deal with the crisis triggered by Britain's participation in the illegal invasion and occupation. The Hutton saga has in reality been a very British sideshow to that central issue--and the now barely contested consensus that the reasons given for joining the war were false. Next to the national and global implications of what has been done--and the more than 15,000 people estimated to have died as a result--a loosely worded 6.07am BBC radio broadcast, and even the grim death of Dr. Kelly, pale into insignificance. By setting up an inquiry into the Kelly affair, Blair created a partially successful diversion from the far more serious--and more threatening to him personally--questions raised by the war itself."

"Now It's Time For Blair To Tell The Truth On WMD"

The tabloid Daily Mirror editorialized (Internet version, 1/29): "Tony Blair would have been justified in cracking open a bottle of bubbly last night. He and those around him had been vindicated by the Hutton report. With the narrow victory on university fees the previous day, it made an incredible double for a prime minister written off by many pundits.... The BBC was not running an anti-war agenda.... It was properly reflecting the views of millions of Britons who did not believe that the evidence was there to take us to war in Iraq. Sixteen months later, not a single WMD has been found. Far less one which can be prepared and fired on another country in 45 minutes. The Hutton inquiry focused on the most narrow terms of reference.... That meant the real issue--the existence of WMD--wasn't even touched on.... It would be tragic...if Mr. Blair allowed this success to encourage him to keep things as they are. He should see it instead as a springboard for change. First he should look at the way he runs 10 Downing Street.... There must be more openness, more discussion, more frankness, less taking decisions behind closed doors, less use of political appointees with blinkered views dictating to everyone else.... The other thing the prime minister must do is the hardest of all. He should admit that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.... Mr. Blair's conviction that they existed is questioned only by his bitterest enemies. He should be strong enough to admit that the 'evidence' was wrong."

"BBC Is Shamed"

The tabloid Sun had this view (Internet version, 1/29): "For more than half a century, BBC News enjoyed a worldwide reputation for accuracy, honesty and impartiality. It was a bastion of journalistic excellence and integrity. Not any more. Lord Hutton has exposed the culture of sloppiness, incompetence and arrogance that infects our national news broadcaster.... Lord Hutton, a man whose impartiality is beyond question, has performed a massive public service. He has taken a complex subject, which struck at the very heart of the Government's fitness to govern, and distilled it into the plain truth: that the Government, the prime minister and his closest aides did nothing wrong.... Tony Blair, meanwhile, has had an astonishing 48 hours."

"Blair Vindicated"

Philip Stephens in wrote in the independent Financial Times (1/29): "Rarely can a prime minister have had more cause for quiet satisfaction.... Defeat at the hands of his own party on a central plank of his domestic policy program was to be followed by the exposure of his government's duplicity in manipulating intelligence to take the country to war.... The parliamentary vote on university tuition fees was won not lost. And after his exhaustive inquiry, Lord Hutton has now acquitted the prime minister of all the central allegations laid against him by the BBC, the opposition parties, and much of the media.... The government's role in the naming David Kelly, the weapons scientist whose conversation with a BBC journalist was at the root of all the controversy, was neither 'duplicitous, dishonorable or underhand.'... Mr. Blair's vindication was the BBC's nightmare.... The criticisms started with author of the original report Andrew Gilligan but they did not end until they reached Greg Dyke, the director general, and Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the governors. The argument about whether Britain should have gone to war against Iraq alongside George W. Bush is one that will not go away. Nor will the profound questions about the quality of the intelligence on which the judgment was made. But Mr. Blair was on Wednesday exonerated of the charges of duplicity laid day-by-day, week-by-week since the suicide of Mr. Kelly. He may have been wrong, but the prime minister was honest."

FRANCE: "Democracies"

Patrick Sabatier argued in left-of-center Liberation (1/29): "We must remember that the 'information war' which has put the BBC and Tony Blair in opposition cannot be the tree hiding the forest of WMD, the arsenal used by President Bush and Tony Blair as a casus belli against Saddam Hussein. According to David Kay, 'Mr. WMD' himself, these WMD did not exist. If Washington and London's leaders did not lie, then they were mistaken or misled by faulty intelligence. In declaring war on Iraq 'by mistake,' these leaders have proven they lacked foresight or caution.... In a democracy, the credibility of information and its interpretation is at the heart of war and peace, especially when a democracy adopts a strategy of 'preventive war.' This credibility is still very much compromised in spite of the Hutton report's conclusions."

GERMANY: "Blair And The Cleaning Power"

Center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich editorialized (1/29): "January 28, 2004 will be the day of satisfaction in Tony Blair's life, when he was cleared of the suspicion that he had lied and negligently pushed a government expert to his death.... For Blair this might be a great relief, even a triumph, but he should not forget that scraped past a humiliation in the House of Commons in an important vote. Judge Hutton may have restored Blair's integrity but not his authority on his side of the parliament. Bitterness about Blair's war in Iraq is paramount and many MPs long for revenge. Blair cannot rule like this in the long run."

"Triumph For Tony Blair"

Thomas Kielinger commented in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (1/29): "The quarrel over the existence of weapons of mass destruction is continuing. Lord Hutton could not interfere here. But the riddle of these weapons is resolving slowly. We just learnt about Iraqi researchers that they lied to tyrant and technological ignorant Saddam pretending that the country's weapon program was seeing one breakthrough after another. It got the institutes enough money, which was seeping away in private pockets, and at the same time deceived foreign intelligence services. And with them also George Bush and Tony Blair, which is something different than accusing them of having lied to their parliaments about the reason to go to war. Lord Hutton did not get dragged into this quagmire. He was supposed to scrutinize the facts leading to the suicide of a researcher, and whether Downing Street acted in a 'dishonorable, underhand or duplicitous' way pulling the wool over the public's eye and sealing the fall of Kelly. The report says no, no, no, no. This is a triumph for Tony Blair who sees his credibility confirmed in the most serious crisis of his tenure."

"Hutton Report"

London correspondent Burkhard Birke commented on national radio station "Deutschlandfunk" of Cologne (1/28): "The verdict of judge Lord Hutton can only polish the image of the Labor leader but cannot let the splendor shine again.... Hutton did not even attempt to scrutinize the most serious question. Was the claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction right, and was it sufficiently justified to go to war? What's left? . A shattered BBC that must ask itself serious questions on its reporting, and a government that has two little spots and big question mark on its cleaned slate. It had promised to express intelligence information clearer and did not sufficiently protect its employee Kelly against a pack of hungry journalists. But above all, this government has not explained to date why it sent its soldiers to war with a reason for which there is still not a single piece of evidence."

"Time To Admit Mistakes"

Andreas Cichowicz commented on ARD-TV's (national channel one) late evening newscast "Tagesthemen" (1/28): "Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction were the reason for going to war. The Hutton report cleared Blair from a legal point of view; the government did not sex anything up and did not manipulate intelligence reports. But what does this mean? Apparently, the Blair government did not need to exaggerate anything. The intelligence material absolutely matched the political concept. It just wasn't true but miserably put together. . Today, the entire world including Secretary Powell doubts that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. But not so Tony Blair. This would be his time to admit mistakes. It would not reestablish his super star aura but, besides authority and credibility, restore respect and confidence, without which a politician cannot survive in the long run."

"Got Away"

Center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine judged (1/29): "The Prime Minister is over the worst of it because Lord Hutton did not have to examine the factual justifiability of the intelligence information on Iraq weapons of mass destruction. The claim that Iraqis were able to deploy weapons in 45 minutes should be looked at in detail. But only quite criticism can be read into the remarks of the judge that the government wished to see convincing expressions in the intelligence dossier published September 2002.... Blair can now deal with the difficulties in his party. In this respect he is not at all safe."

"The Prime Minister And His Judge"

Moritz Schuller writes in centrist Der Tagesspiegel of Berlin (1/29): "The Hutton report was often misread as a vote on the Iraq war. But Hutton only passed a judgment on a few details in the quarrel between the BBC and the British government. Tony Blair, who stood by Bush very early on, is still there. In order not to fully isolate Britain he had to give into the French and German wish of a European Army. His position in Europe has hardly changed by this report. There, nobody wants to clear him of the Iraq war. This shows that the visionary of the Third Way has also lost leeway in foreign policy."

"Breather For Blair"

Peter Nonnenmacher opines in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (1/29): "The Hutton report did not turn into a tribunal for Blair.. The question why and for what reason the British Prime Minister led his country to war against Saddam Hussein and undermined the UN on the side of George W. Bush, split the EU, destabilized Iraq and prompted international terrorism anew, was much more than Lord Hutton was allowed had to investigate.. But this is exactly the question of David Kay, the former head of the Iraq Survey Group, who could not find any weapons of mass destruction at all and does no longer suspect any in Iraq. Kay's verdict and the half-hearted admission of Secretary Powell revived doubts in London about going to war. Blair nurtures the doubts because he keeps denying reality. To date he sticks to intelligence information which have long proven to be incredible."

ITALY: "Tony Looking to Post-Downing Street Future"

Alessio Altichieri asserted in centrist top-circulation Corriere della Sera (1/29): "What now, Tony Blair?... Blair, the man who has lost neither power nor honor, obviously looks heartened, or rather toughened, ready to demand apologies from the people who have called him a liar, because the government dossier was the intelligence services' work. The liars are the ones who were accusing him of lying. But has this really seen the matter off? Like a boxer coming off the ring, the fight has left its mark on Blair, even if he has won the title. He is not injured, but he bears a few extra bruises.... The fact remains, however, that no weapons have been found: David Kay, the head of the team of inspectors given the job of unearthing them, thinks they do not exist, and even Secretary of State Colin Powell and Vice President Cheney are voicing skepticism. Can Blair really be the only man who persists in believing that they will come to light sooner or later? Blair undoubtedly did not lie, but could he not now admit that he was wrong to be so certain?... The British press has for some time shown a fondness for wondering whether Blair might not be ready to resign. In the day before yesterday's vote as well, it has been said, the prime minister scraped by only because Brown brought the rebels, most of them his supporters, to heel, and one day, Blair will have to show gratitude and return the favors he has been done. We have also seen, however, that, in making it home by just five votes, Blair is more in debt to luck than to the chancellor, and when he demanded apologies yesterday from the people who had called him a liar, Blair displayed an anger that hardly heralded resignation. We may draw the tentative conclusion that, for the time being, whether out of choice or necessity, Blair cannot but stick to his home street, despite the fact that, what with unconfessable errors and party revolts, the Downing Street path is becoming narrower and narrower.

"Watergate In Reverse"

Paolo Garimberti observed in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (1/29): "There are two lessons to be drawn from this Watergate in reverse that is the Blair-Kelly-BBC affair. The first is that, in terms of leadership and statesmanship skills, Tony Blair has few rivals among current government leaders, either in Europe or elsewhere. In 48 hours he has come through two tests that challenged his ideas and his credibility in a dramatic exercise of democracy and transparency, and he has emerged victorious. The second lesson is that the BBC has tumbled off the pedestal that it has occupied for 82 years, along with the legendary Anglo-Saxon brand of journalism of which it was the last vestal virgin.... Sure, [Blair] is no longer 'Teflon Tony,' as he used to be dubbed...the man to whom nothing and no one seemed to be able to stick.... Sure, the specter of the war in Iraq and the unfound weapons of mass destruction continues to haunt him and to rekindle the debate within his own party.... But now that the two longest days of his premiership are over, it may readily be foreseen that Blair will not shortly be meeting the same end as Thatcher, as might still have been thought not so long ago. On the contrary, he is likely, in the near future, to be more than ever the most credible leader in a Europe seeking to patch up its relationship with America."

"When The Myth Of The Media Disavows Itself"

Fabio Galvano had this to say in centrist, influential La Stampa (Internet version, 1/29): "It is the first major stain in the 82 years of the life of the BBC. What is hard to say, as yet, is whether the resignation of the Chairman, Gavyn Davies, is enough to cauterize a wound which the 'Kelly affair' dramatically opened up...and which the inquest under Lord Hutton highlighted with a severe condemnation of a broadcasting empire which the British--and not only the British--have always viewed as a symbol of independence and authoritativeness in the media world.... Some people will now say, inevitably, that the BBC is no longer what it was: that its authoritativeness, as well as its credibility, has sprung a leak. That would be too much. The BBC is and remains one of the most healthy institutions in the world of the media. It made a mistake, in this affair, but it is not rotten; as is moreover shown by the readiness with which, after having defended his journalists, Davies has now found a way of shouldering his responsibilities, and behaving in the upright and essentially honorable way which would perhaps have been ignored in other countries."

RUSSIA: "Unsinkable Tony"

Vladimir Kara-Murza commented in business-oriented Kommersant (1/29): "The British prime minister may allow himself triumphant notes: he and his close associates Geoff Hoon and Alistair Campbell have been fully acquitted by Lord Hutton whose impartiality no one doubts in Britain. Now Mr. Hoon need not fear for his political future, and Mr. Campbell, who resigned at the end of last summer, may accept the job of the Labor Party's election campaign coordinator with a clear conscience. Tony Blair himself is beyond criticism now. Even his opponents said earlier this week that if the prime minister survived those hellish 48 hours, he would be out of the woods. After defeating the left wing of the Labor Party on a sensitive issue like paid education and being cleared of whatever was imputed to him in the 'Kelly case,' Mr. Blair need not worry over the outcome of the 2005 general elections."

"Blair Still In Trouble"

Yulia Petrovskaya judged in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (1/29): "As shown by the last few days, Blair's is a tactical victory. Strategically, he is in trouble. He is losing his Labor Party. The vote on education reform is graphic proof. Analysts say that Blair did not save the law. His Finance Secretary Gordon Brown did, as many in the Labor Party were against it. As for the 'Kelly case,' it is not closed yet."

"More Alive Than Dead"

Olga Dmitriyeva filed from London for official government Rossiyskaya Gazeta (1/29): "The patient is more alive than dead is what you may just as well say about Tony Blair. Caught in another gamble--there have been several in his 6-year premiership--with his own career and his government down on the line, he has gotten away with it by a sheer miracle."

AUSTRIA: "It Just Happened"

Josef Kirchengast observed in Vienna's liberal Der Standard (1/29): "Nobody can be blamed personally for the suicide of the British weapons expert David Kelly: this is the not unexpected conclusion the judge Lord Hutton has drawn from the inquiry led by him. Yet one can also turn the argument on its head and say: all those involved were to a certain extent responsible.... None of those involved has emerged unscathed from the affair. The highly regarded BBC failed to check with necessary care its reporter's claims about the strongly exaggerated threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.... The prime minister on his part can no longer pretend that David Kelly's name was disclosed without his knowledge. It is difficult to imagine that the secretary of state for defense, who will now probably be the scapegoat, acted without Blair's consent. The Hutton report fails to answer the question that is behind all this: to clarify whether or not Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.... Yet the question has been answered with a relatively clear 'no' in another place: by the U.S. chief weapons inspector who resigned and recently by the U.S. secretary of state. In the military sphere unintentional losses and victims are called collateral damage. If the word were not so cynical, one could describe Kelly's death with this term: collateral damage of a war that had been decided upon long before a justification was found."

BELGIUM: "A Pyrrhic Victory For Tony Blair"

Foreign editor Philippe Berkenbaum held in left-of-center Le Soir (1/29): "We should not be mistaken: Lord Hutton's thorough investigation, whose conclusions appear rather favorable for Tony Blair, is not--and has never been--the trial of Great Britain's decision to enter the war in Iraq. That trial, which has so far been made by British media, public opinion, and opposition, is still going on. If someone is found guilty, the sanction will not be a judicial but a popular one: Blair and the Labor Party might one day be punished in ballot boxes.... The question of Great Britain's decision to enter the war in Iraq could be a time bomb for Tony Blair, who runs the risk of facing an open war in his party or an untenable popular pressure--or perhaps both. As an indirect result, it could also be a time bomb for George Bush who, although he still enjoys the support of the media, of the American people, and of Republican elected officials, will face elections in November."

"Blair Did Not Lie But Did He Tell The Truth?"

Christophe Lamfalussy wrote in independent La Libre Belgique (1/29): "Tony Blair is lucky to come out unharmed from the major investigation of Lord Hutton. The latter never asked the key question, which was at the basis of David Kelly's work, i.e., did Iraq have weapons of mass destruction? Actually, the British Government's allegation that Iraq was capable of activating strategic weapons in 45 minutes was based on one source only, which British secret services considered reliable. Yet, that allegation became the central element of the report that led Great Britain to enter the war in Iraq. Neither the BBC nor the British Government respected the rule number one in journalism, i.e., that two sources are better than one."

"Wait And See"

Foreign editor Jean Vanempten observed in independent financial daily De Tijd (1/29): "Blair is one of the few leaders who continue to claim that weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq--although everyone admits that there are no such things there. He made his Foreign Minister Jack Straw claim that it is a 'pity' that such weapons were not found in Iraq. It is very much the question whether British public opinion will swallow the conclusions of the Hutton report. In the eyes of many, Blair was the man who sent his troops to Iraq against the will of the UN and under a false pretext. We will have to wait and see whether he can improve his image after the vote in the House of Commons and the Hutton report. But, we must admit: if there is one man who is capable of improving his own image, it is Tony Blair. It is true, he is the man who introduced 'spinning'--the manipulation of the media--into political life."

CZECH REPUBLIC: "Redeemed Blair, Defamed Saddam"

Jan Rybar observed in the mainstream MF Dnes (1/29): "Yesterday's verdict by the British court redeeming Blair and rejecting guilt of the British government in the case of David Kelly is not a victory for Tony Blair, but for the U.S.-British campaign in Iraq.... The verdict comes at the right time--the U.S. had to admit a few days ago that it is probable that no arsenals of WMD would be found in Iraq. Sometimes it may even seem that the greatest villains are Tony Blair and George Bush. Saddam Hussein who killed hundreds of thousands people has somehow faded out of all discussions over Iraq.... In this regard, the verdict of the British court can be interpreted as: there was only one villain in the war on Iraq and that was Saddam Hussein."

DENMARK: "In Good Faith"

Center-left Politiken editorialized (1/29): "Blair acted in good faith when informing Parliament of the threat of WMD in Iraq, and cannot be held responsible for the death of David Kelly either. The BBC has a problem, though by first printing a story critical of the government without firm evidence and then not being critical enough of its own flaws in this respect. It is still ironic that this story comes out the week of weapons inspector David Kay's resignation, and overall both Blair and Bush have a very bad case in terms of proving the existence of WMD in Iraq. In that respect Lord Hutton's report is not of much use as it deals only with the Kelly suicide. Finally, the BBC has made an error, but that should not lead to less critical journalism nor need one hear of a lowering of the high standards of this institution."


The leading daily Nepszabadsag concluded (1/30): "The 'David Kelly' investigation has been from the beginning not only about the credibility of the British government but about the responsibility of the public service BBC, and, after all, about the legitimacy of the Iraq war."


Ivan Zsolt Nagy wrote in liberal Magyar Hirlap (1/29): "The leader of the British Labor Party is a master of political games, and the ability to survive is one of the skills needed for such games.... Yesterday, smiling and looking years younger than the previous day, Blair demanded in parliament that everyone who had accused him of lying apologize to him. Blair quite obviously enjoyed his triumph. However, not a single observer failed to point out at least quietly that this was just a battle but the war still continues. And the opponents in this war are not ordinary opponents. For a start, there is the party itself. The prime minister will now have to fulfill the promises that he officially denied making but that he probably made nevertheless. These promises might include assurances given to his key opponent within the party, the finance minister, who is dreaming about the post of prime minister. Analysts agree that Gordon Brown's backing and the supportive votes of the MPs favoring Brown were the only thing that kept the tuition fee reform from falling through at the last moment. There might be a high price for this. The price might be that Blair will not run for prime minister again.... Blair has an opponent that is even bigger than the party: yesterday's true loser, the BBC.... While the BBC is not likely to openly announce a state of war with the government, it is not likely to forget things, either. The news service has plenty of tools to serve its purposes. Although Blair has not been condemned, he will not necessarily regain popularity. Next year will see the next episode of the island game: the voting show. It will not be surprising if certain people at the BBC and the journalists feeling solidarity with them decide that it should be a voting-out show."

IRELAND: "The Hutton Inquiry"

The center-left Irish Times editorialized (1/29): "Mr. Tony Blair has emerged triumphantly from the Hutton inquiry into the events surrounding the suicide of Dr. David Kelly. He is vindicated by its conclusions.... The Hutton report is published as it becomes daily more clear that Iraq did not have such weapons of mass destruction--the political basis on which Britain went to war.... There can be no denying that Lord Hutton's report exonerates Mr. Blair from deception and duplicity, as he put it forcefully in the House of Commons yesterday. But this must not be allowed to obscure the larger question of whether the British people were deceived in going to war by faulty political judgments based on inaccurate intelligence. Mr. Blair showed courage and determination in winning the Commons vote on university top-up fees. But in doing so he has antagonized a large section of his party.... Mr. Blair's political fate in this crisis has many implications for Ireland. No modern British prime minister has been involved with British-Irish relations in such a sustained fashion. He has come well out of a trying week but the ultimate arbiters of his exoneration--and the naming of Dr. Kelly--will be the court of public opinion."

NORWAY: "BBC's Greatest Mistake"

Per Egil Hegge commented in the newspaper of record Aftenposten (1/30): "What remains, is the British--and for its part the American--government's quality control of intelligence evaluations that were used as the reasons for the war.... The BBC now is ready to shoulder the burden [of their mistake], and some attention should, both in London and Washington, be directed toward the case's underlying realities."

"Weakened Blair In War About The War"

The newspaper of record Aftenposten held (1/29): "The political repercussions after the war in Iraq are still rolling through the government corridors in London and Washington, and continue to create diplomatic difficulties among old allies in Europe and the U.S. ... UK PM Tony Blair might have suffered the most. Therefore, it must come as a great relief for him that the inquiry by one of the country's senior judges...frees Blair from the responsibility for the tragic death of the weapons expert David Kelly.... However, it is important to be aware that Lord Hutton's task was limited to the incidents around Kelly's death. He was not supposed to consider the far more important issue of whether the UK went to war--by America's side--for the wrong reasons. Today, Blair is one of the few that says he still expects to find WMD in Iraq. So far nothing has been found.... This is really quite serious, also for Blair, and means that he can only enjoy a limited political comfort from Lord Hutton's report. Within his own party and in the British opinion Blair is still considered a leader who has supported war operations for the wrong reasons. This undermines his authority, in the same way as Tuesday's rebellion among Labor's members of the House of Commons.... Only Blair's solid majority secured a narrow victory.... We now witness the consequences of a simmering revolt among the leftists in the party that Blair has led far into the center, and on some occasions, across the middle line in British politics. In order to continue such a political course and not be forced into unfortunate compromises in important reforms in British society, authority is what Blair needs most of all. He may soon find out that the Iraq war, in spite of Lord Hutton's report, has weakened his ability to cut through in a party so strongly that it will also influence the center-oriented course for reforms at home."

POLAND: "BBC Crisis"

Bronislaw Wildstein wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (1/30): "The Lord Hutton Report has become the source of the biggest crisis in the 82-year-long history of the BBC, the institution enjoying a great authority worldwide.... The BBC's problem, as it is with the majority of Western media, is growing ideological bias. It expresses itself, among other things, in radical anti-Americanism and hostility toward Israel.... Despite its ideological bias, however, the BBC maintains a traditional respect for journalistic standards and professional responsibility. When it turned out that Gilligan's reports were exaggerated, the president and general manager of the BBC resigned, and the government received an official apology."

PORTUGAL: "Government Defeats BBC"

Respected center-left daily Diario de Noticias commented (Internet version, 1/29): "Blair emerges victorious with this surprising outcome. Tony Blair could not be happier. Especially as the other conclusions of the report also favor him.... Blair immediately demanded apologies from those who in the last few months have accused him of lying and manipulating information. As for the BBC, he only asked its managers to draw the appropriate conclusions. And so, like a political Houdini, Tony Blair turned the biggest political challenge of his career into the biggest personal victory of his curriculum."

"Mistakes Are Not Lies"

Influential moderate-left Publico editorialized (Internet version, 1/29): "History should not be rewritten and it should be recognized that both the supporters and opponents of the military intervention (including top UN officials) were--before the war--convinced that Saddam possessed banned weapons.... In political debate, it is not necessary to insult or attack the integrity of your opponents to win an argument. The argument must be discussed rationally."

ROMANIA: "Tony Blair Narrowly Escapes"

Bucharest's influential daily Adevarul commented (1/29): "British Prime Minister Tony Blair has...overcome the most difficult moment in his entire political career. This happened just 24 hours after he won a vote by the narrowest of margins on the controversial bill to increase university tuition fees.... The British press says that this crisis indicates to what extent the capital of sympathy from which he benefited has been eroded: many of his fellow countrymen, including some of his own Labor deputies, no longer trust him as they did when he came to power. Undoubtedly, the war in Iraq has been the main factor in this erosion process.... Blair has every reason to breath a sigh of relief now that the report has been published, but he has no reason to be happy about the vote in the House of Commons...considering that the Labor Party has an 161-strong majority there."

SPAIN: "Blair Reborn"


Left-of-center El Pais commented (Internet version, 1/29): "Tony Blair has emerged relatively unscathed from what was expected to be his tragic week after six years at the helm of the United Kingdom. In less than 24 hours the Labor leader has passed from the agony of a serious rebellion in his own parliamentary ranks to jubilation over the judicial conclusions in the 'Kelly case.'... Judge Hutton saved the reputation of Blair, whom he exonerates of responsibility for the suicide of the scientific and weapons expert and who he says did not lie to parliament to push through war with Iraq.... Hutton's conclusions in the 'Kelly case,' however, fall into another category. Not only because the tragic death of a noted scientist introduces a human face, that of the victim, into Bair's confrontation with the majority of his fellow citizens concerning Iraq but above all, because its conclusions concern something as irretrievable as the political credit and moral authority which the head of labor cited since the start of his mandate as the most prized asset of his leadership."

"Kill The Messenger"

Conservative La Razon argued (Internet version, 1/29): "Judge Brian Hutton's final report exonerates the British government, and especially its prime minister, Tony Blair, of any kind of responsibility for the suicide of scientist David Kelly. Also, it states that the accusations made by a BBC journalist, Andrew Gilligan, that documents had been manipulated to exaggerate the Iraqi threat and to justify the UK's intervention in the war 'were totally unfounded'. The BBC's response has been immediate: its chairman, Gavyn Davies, has presented his resignation. Case closed. Without wanting to contradict the prestigious British judge's neat and tidy investigation, it seems necessary to reflect on the undeniable fact that the information given by the BBC was rigorously exact: Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction capable of being used in 45 minutes. That alarming statement, which has turned out to be a lie, figured in an official dossier and was a decisive factor in the decision taken by many Labor MPs who ended up supporting military intervention. Perhaps, we are not denying it, the journalist was mistaken when he accused the British government of 'intentional manipulation' without the backing of a source. But the basic news was absolutely right: Iraq did not represent an immediate threat to Great Britain. This has been made crystal clear. It is a shame that Hutton did not extend his investigation to the ultimate origin of such a clumsy lie."

"Blair Wins Confrontation With BBC"

Independent El Mundo commented (Internet version, 1/29): "The report is a great relief for Blair, who was facing a critical week. The day before yesterday he saw how a large number of his own MPs voted against his university reform, although in the end, in spite of the evident divisions in the Labor Party, he managed to get the House of Commons to approve his plan by five votes. If this was a bittersweet victory, yesterday's is overwhelming.... The Hutton report does not alter the general opinion that the Iraq war deserves, but it affects the exercise of journalistic responsibility. The BBC has seen this clearly and not only has its chairman resigned, but its director-general has apologized.... The independence that the BBC, as a public broadcaster, has shown in standing up to the government has been praised. It is true that being independent is a basic virtue in journalism but if it does not come with reporting of the highest rigor it can only lead to disrepute. If the Watergate case marked a historical milestone in the relations between power and the press, the Kelly case is another point of reference, but of the opposite kind. Judges have had to resolve a conflict which set the government and the fourth estate against each other. Having seen the ruling, the BBC could do nothing to recover its prestige other than taking on its responsibility, as Blair would have had to do if there had been an unfavorable verdict."

SWEDEN: "Liberating Decision On Iraq"

Stockholm's conservative Svenska Dagbladet took this view (Internet version, 1/29): "Yesterday Prime Minister Tony Blair was...exonerated from charges of having doctored the evidence when the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction was to be eliminated with force.... When the 'judgment' came down in Lord Hutton's investigation, Blair was exonerated on all counts. Instead the toughest criticism was directed at the BBC for having spread unsubstantiated information. The investigation is a tough blow to the peace movement, not least within the Labor Party which has raged at Blair for his decision to join the Coalition of the Willing against Saddam Hussein. The same, of course, also applies to the overlooked fact that Kelly believed that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction; his criticism was related to how quickly they could be used. The charges against Tony Blair were grave and could not be left unanswered. A similar investigation is going on in the United States where similar charges are leveled against President George W. Bush. It can be noted that David Kay, the head of the U.S. weapons inspectors who recently resigned, has said that Iraq had both biological weapons and a nuclear weapons program. The criticism of the liberation of Iraq will hardly go away. It has a life of its own. In any case, that part which is based on pacifism or anti-Americanism. Hairsplitters are usually tenacious. It is, however, in Iraq that the question of right or wrong will be decided. If the rebuilding is successful, the debate on the strength of the proof will be a footnote in history. With the Kelly affair behind him, Tony Blair can now concentrate on seeing that this is the case."


SYRIA: "Blair And The Decisive Moment"

Nadim Hatim wrote in government-owned Tishreen (Internet version, 1/29): "For the second time in less than one year British Prime Minister Tony Blair survived a double ordeal that threatened his political future. It was the second time since his government announced its subservience to the policy of the current U.S. administration, which is described as the most extremist of all U.S. administrations, basing its policy on the preemptive strike doctrine and the idea of a dominant empire. Two days ago Blair won parliamentary approval of his plans to increase university tuition. Also, the Hutton committee, which investigated the circumstances of the false information that was offered to justify the war on Iraq, cleared Blair and his government of any responsibility.... Blair and the leaders of the Labor Party have so far overcome...challenges in a way that was considered a victory. But this victory is still fraught with risks, the most significant among which is the position of the British public, which still has not said its final word about the results of the Labor Party policy. This policy had a negative impact on the British people, both on the level of service plans...and on the level of the British foreign policy, which has been characterized by unlimited subservience to the American policy. This has drawn a sharp reaction from the British people, who rejected involvement in the war on Iraq and are still awaiting the general elections to say their final and clear word."

UAE: "The Arabs And The Hutton Report."

Semi-independent Al-Watan remarked (Internet version, 1/29): "In our view as Arabs, Judge Lord Hutton's Report and his conclusions about the suicide of British weapons expert David Kelly remain a British domestic affair. What really matters is that whether Britain's participation in a war against an Arab country was based on exaggerations at best and lies and fabrications at worst. Regrettably, this particular point has not been covered by the judicial mission of Judge Hutton. This, however, does not mean that the file of the case has been completely closed. Several days before the release of the British judge's report, a U.S. inspection team published in Washington a summary of a report acknowledging that despite months of inspection, it has failed to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.... If the Bush administration and Tony Blair's government used the alleged threat to world security by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction as an excuse to attack an Arab country, kill thousands of people, and destroy Iraq and its national sovereignty, the matter then deserves a comprehensive investigation. Regardless of the nature of the former Iraqi regime, Arab countries are required to raise their voices and to demand such an investigation so that striking Iraq under false pretexts will not become a precedent for striking another country."


AUSTRALIA: "A Great Persuader Losing His Touch"

The liberal Sydney Morning Herald editorialized (Internet version, 1/31): "In an extraordinary 24 hours of coincidence and potential calamity, Mr. Blair faced a backbench revolt and the possibility of a finding that he lied to cover up involvement in a string of events that ended with the suicide of the weapons scientist David Kelly. As it turned out, Mr. Blair survived the backbench uprising, albeit by a tiny margin and only after the intervention of his leadership rival, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown. And the Kelly affair inquisitor, Lord Brian Hutton, cleared Mr. Blair of any wrongdoing in the controversy centered on a BBC report that the prime minister's office 'sexed up' the intelligence dossier case against Iraq.... But Mr. Blair is not out of the woods. His brushes with political death have left a whiff of mortality about the Great Persuader and it is unclear whether he will be the leader at next year's election.... The prime minister without 'a reverse gear' is running in leaden boots. And Factor X--that capacity to confront trouble and persuade doubters through powers of reason, charm and indefatigability--is deserting him. Old Labor was never keen on him; many supporters have tired of his support-or-sack-me causes, particularly the Iraq war; voters are angry at perceptions that life isn't as good as it once was; and the Conservatives are finally getting their act together under a new leader, Michael Howard.... Ideas are more important than any political career. If Mr. Blair sinks, he sinks. But those who would tear him down need to show their ideas for Britain's future at least equal his."

"Tony Blair, And The Case For War, Survive"

The national conservative Australian editorialized (1/30): "More bizarre still has been the spectacle of the Left being prepared to hound a Labor prime minister to his political death, because he was willing to act with the U.S. to depose a fascist dictator. Lord Hutton excluded the existence or non-existence of Saddam Hussein's illegal weapons from his brief. But the fact that he concludes the British Government acted honorably on the basis of the intelligence available is a major undermining of the Left's case against Mr. Blair.... It was not just the British and U.S. intelligence agencies, but every intelligence agency in the world--along with UNSCOM, the relevant United Nations agency--which believed in the likelihood that Hussein still possessed weapons of mass destruction. If he did not, then these intelligence failures will need to be addressed. But equally, if he did not, the dictator could have saved himself at any moment by allowing unhindered inspections."

"A Bad Week For Iraq Conspiracy Theorists"

Tony Parkinson wrote in Melbourne's liberal Age (1/30): "The Hutton report, published in London yesterday, has delivered a severe rebuke to the British Broadcasting Corporation over unfounded accusations of deception at the highest levels of the Blair Government.... The Hutton report reminds us of the corrosive dangers of excessive public cynicism about political processes in the Western democracies. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been all but hounded from office on the strength of the BBC reports that Downing Street had 'sexed up' an intelligence dossier on Iraq's weapons in September 2002 with claims the Government probably knew to be false. Hutton's exoneration of Blair provides a salutary lesson for the media. As of today, it is the BBC's integrity, not that of Blair, that has become the issue. Hutton's findings could not be more punishing. The punchline, in essence, was this: the BBC could not be believed when it said the Government could not be believed. The ramifications extend far beyond Britain. The false accusations against Blair triggered a widespread campaign to discredit the arguments for military intervention in Iraq. If Blair had lied, the argument went, the other core partners in the so-called coalition of the willing, namely George Bush and John Howard, were similarly tainted. Hutton's findings should prompt contrition among those too eager to subscribe to this dark and dismal proposition. More positively, it might help remove one of the blinding distractions preventing a cogent and clear-headed analysis of whether the war was necessary."

JAPAN: "Prime Minister Verses BBC; Mutual Trust Damaged Over Iraq War"

Keiko Iizuka wrote from London in moderate, top-circulation Yomiuri Shimbun (Internet version, 1/29): "An independent British investigating committee, which was set up with a fierce battle between the British government and the BBC over the Iraq war in the background, made a decision on 28 January in favor of the prime minister. However, the vast amounts of testimonies and evidence reveal the fact that many 'words' and 'expressions' used by both sides were unclear and lacked credibility.... Judge Hutton...pointed out in the report...several mistakes the BBC had made in its news coverage. On the other hand, Lord Hutton, contrary to public expectations, did not mention the responsibility of the prime minister or the government. But numerous documents clearly show that the prime minister's words were full of fraud. Take the case of leaking the name of [David Kelly].... The situation indicates that what he said is infinitely close to lying. The prime minister may be able to ward off the investigating committee's efforts to pursue his responsibility. But will he be able to regain the people's trust in his 'leader's words,' which were his greatest strength? The Blair government may go down in history as an administration that shortened its own life over the Iraq war."

NEW ZEALAND: "Vindication For An Embattled Tony Blair"

The liberal newspaper-of-record Dominion Post of Wellington editorialized (Internet version, 1/30): "London calling, here is the news: Labor Government, 1; British Broadcasting Corporation, 0. Yesterday, British peer Lord Hutton released his report.... The result was total victory for Prime Minister Tony Blair, a complete rout of the BBC.... What now for Mr. Blair? Westminster gossip has it that he might see this public vindication as a good time to retire, given that he, as Labor's erstwhile savior, has lost his public following. It points to the earlier Commons vote on tertiary education that the prime minister won thanks only to a handful of votes delivered by his leadership rival, Chancellor Gordon Brown. The public no longer trusts Mr. Blair, partly because of his enthusiasm for U.S. President George W. Bush's adventurism in Iraq and partly because they cannot divine when he is telling the truth. Backbench rumblings that include former ministers Robin Cook and Clare Short are at such a pitch that it seems to be only Mr. Brown's attenuated loyalty that is keeping Mr. Blair in the top job.... Many people--not all of them politicians--will be delighted to see [the BBC] get its comeuppance.... The Hutton report will cast a long shadow over the news media generally, but public broadcasting in particular, for some time to come. It might yet also encourage the departure from politics of a man who made the British Labor Party re-electable and who, in the end, has spun himself out of public esteem."


INDIA: "BBC'S Darkest Hour, Whitewash Stains Blair"

London Correspondent Amit Royn filed this dispatch in the centrist Telegraph (1/30): "Civilization as the British know it is coming to an end, with the BBC facing the gravest crisis in its history.... Tony Blair and his government, who were cleared...by Lord Hutton of any wrongdoing over the death of Dr. David Kelly, the weapons scientist, are not having things all their own way, though. An influential and growing body of opinion believes that Hutton's report is a 'whitewash'--in fact, today's Independent newspaper dramatically left most of its front page blank to signal its view that Hutton has not been even-handed in apportioning blame.... At issue now is the freedom and independence of the BBC. It has admitted it made a mistake...but insists it was right to cover the Iraq war in the way that it did--which is one of the reasons why Blair and Campbell went to war against the BBC."


CANADA: "The Real Message From Hutton And Kay"

The nationalist Ottawa Citizen opined (1/29): "Lord Hutton's report largely exonerates Tony Blair's government of any wrongdoing in the death of Mr. Kelly, a defense ministry scientist who killed himself last year after being revealed as the source of a BBC story that charged Mr. Blair's office with embellishing intelligence reports about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to bolster support for the Iraqi war. Instead, Lord Hutton harshly criticized the British Broadcasting Corporation for failing to ensure the reliability of the story, which gave considerable support to the government's anti-war critics. Mr. Kay's report has also been used--wrongly--to assail the Bush administration's decision to go to war. Mr. Kay said he is now convinced investigators won't find large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but he also said Mr. Bush cannot be faulted for believing such weapons existed.... In this regard, the most salient notion to draw from both reports--besides the need to get to the bottom of why the intelligence was so convincing and yet so wrong--is that they underscore the importance of keeping criticism and dissent honest. Anti-war critics have ruthlessly exploited the Kelly affair and the issue of Iraq's weaponry to denounce both Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair as liars and warmongers. But it is clear that both leaders acted in good conscience on the basis of evidence available to them. Will the critics now admit that it is they, not the politicians, who acted inappropriately?... It is fair to question whether military action was the best way to deal with Iraq (we believe it was), but it is unfair to suggest the U.S. and Britain lied about what they believed to be the threat Iraq posed to our security."

"Hutton Report Had Narrow Focus"

Paul Knox wrote in the leading Globe and Mail (Internet version, 1/29): "When the history of the Iraq campaign is written, the Kelly affair and the BBC-government spat will be worth a page or two at most. Far more central to the story is why the war was launched in the first place, and why the United States and its allies were so ill-informed about Iraq and the Iraqis. Not only were they in the dark about WMD, in the post-war period their general misdiagnosis of the country has cost credibility, money and lives.... The parliamentary opposition in London called yesterday for an inquiry into intelligence failures. So, in Washington, did Mr. Kay. Yes, it was a day in which the BBC was bloodied--but the spying establishments, and their political masters, hardly emerged unscathed."

BRAZIL: "Blair And Bush Absolved"

Center-right O Estado de S. Paulo editorialized (2/1): "Lord Brian Hutton's conclusions have been viewed as 'narrow,' 'unfair' and, according to one commentator, 'almost comically biased'.... Hutton used a double standard in reaching his conclusions.... He ignored evidence of Tony Blair's participation in the leaking of Kelly's name. In addition, he criticized the BBC as the villain in the whole story. Only the government received the benefit of the doubt.... Lord Hutton refused to investigate the most important thing: the reliability of information provided by British intelligence about Saddam's arsenals.... Five days earlier, David Kay had affirmed before the U.S. Senate that 'almost all of us were mistaken,' and that even Saddam would have been duped in recent years by scientists who presented him with dazzling plans for chemical and biological arms.... The core of Kay's theory is that President Bush genuinely believed what misinformed intelligence services such as the CIA had sent him.... The 'almost all of us were mistaken' theory seems to have been produced to protect the governments of Bush and Blair from the accusation of having fabricated a false pretext for war."

"BBC Vs. Blair"

Liberal Folha de S. Paulo held (2/1): "The [results of the] long-anticipated British judicial investigation of scientist David Kelly's suicide are firm: Both Prime Minister Tony Blair and the government have been absolved of practically all suspicion of having manipulated secret service reports.... It is known today that Iraq did not possess WMD and that the reports produced by the British and American intelligence services were wrong. It seems paradoxical that the BBC has been criticized because of a story that is compatible with that conclusion, while the government was absolved of guilt.... The Hutton report lacked balance between a necessary condemnation of the media's behavior and a recognition that one should not discourage journalists' efforts to go beyond appearances in their task of reporting on and investigating the government."


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